Mark Strizic, Jimmy Watsons wine bar designed by Robin Boyd, 1962
The recent passing of the Melbourne photographer Mark Strizic takes us one step further away from the historic period of 20th century European modernism. Until I read James McArdle‘s short bio of Strizic on DAAO I hadn’t realised how close he had been to the centre of that rich culture. Born in Berlin in 1928, he twice fled totalitarianism, first from Nazism and later from postwar Communism in Yugoslavia. He was touched by the great events of the century.
As a young man he was part of the great immigrant flood into Australia. Intending a life in science he switched to photography establishing himself as an architectural, portrait and street photographer in the late 1950s. He became Robin Boyd’s main interpreter and you can see why from the image above. Look at how those (posed) figures are placed, echoing the dark windows and giving the picture a surreal stillness.
Like fellow emigrés Wolfgang Sievers, Henry Talbot and Helmut Newton, Strizic helped bring European modernity to Australian photography, a sharp, clear aesthetic that suited the business culture of the mid-century. The images shown here are typical of that Germanic sensibility: the unsentimental gaze, the urge to abstract, the foundation in geometry. Note how the compression of disparate forms from foreground and background creates a new way of seeing a subject. In the twenties it was called “making strange”.
Mark Strizic, Barkly St Carlton, c1963
Mark Strizic, In a Western Suburb of Melbourne, 1961
The best online resource I’ve found of Strizic’s work is at Australian Art Sales Digest, but he’s in all the collections and is not hard to find. Isn’t it time the NGV did a retrospective on Mark Strizic like they did for Sievers back in the early 90s?
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Beautifully written Greg! The examples you’ve chosen make clear the debt Australian photography owes to Strizic and his confreres amongst postwar European refugees. I agree; an NGV show would be timely.